I usually like Chris Rock’s comedy. He’s profane, so you can’t use it in class. But he’s often quite witty while exposing key problems of society.
I bumped into a YouTube video of a few minutes of Rock’s rant against doctors and science at an odd site called HealthNoob.com. On the one hand, Rock is ripping off Voltaire and others from the 18th century who noted that doctors of that time rarely cured anyone — without antibiotics and a very incomplete understanding of the human body and diseases, how could they?
On the other hand, the idea that physicians don’t want to cure people gained considerable traction among African Americans over the past 40 years, especially fueled by comedians like Dick Gregory who, God bless him otherwise, thought most of the medical establishment conspired against African Americans at every turn. Rock builds on that platform. This is not a good trend. Especially to the extent that wrong views of medicine discourage African Americans from seeking health care that could prevent serious disease until it’s too late, spreading disinformation does no one any good.
Past that, such comedy encourages crazies to crawl out of the woodwork and spread even more disinformation. For example, in the comments at HealthNoob.com, some wag claims that DDT caused polio in the 1930s, apparently ignorant of the fact that DDT was not available for use until after 1939, and not available for use on farms until 1946. This is grotesque urban legend.
Here’s Rock’s rant, below (not safe for work or school due to profanity); below that, the response I left at HealthNoob.com (which is “in moderation” as I write this).
Give us your views in comments, will you? Is Rock way off base? Is his comedy routine here more damaging than funny?
At HealthNoob.com, I responded:
This conversation is certainly deteriorating.
A couple of observations:
Polio is caused by a virus. No one is sure exactly where it came from, or why it wasn’t more widespread prior to the 20th century. It well may be that it was around, but harmless, until a 20th century mutation caused it to become deadly. In any case, we know it’s a virus, and that’s why and how the vaccines worked against it. It’s not caused by chemical exposure, though some exposures may insult human immune systems and make some people more prone to get the disease the virus causes.
2. We know it wasn’t DDT, too. DDT was not available for use against insects by anyone prior to 1942. Polio was rampant before then (my brother caught polio in 1939). DDT was not available for use outside the military prior to 1946.
3. Diseases cured by medical care? Streps and bacterial infections, including tuberculosis (save for the drug-resistant kinds). Leukemia. Measles, almost. Polio wasn’t counted as eradicated until very recently (if at all). Goiter and iodine deficiency ($0.15 per ton of salt to “iodize” it, and cure goiter; the cheapest public health action ever).
4. Do you want to know how good cures work? The American Dental Association pushed for fluoridation to help prevent and cure dental caries. It worked fantastically. Now dentists spend more time fixing other stuff, and dental caries is basically a disease of the past — except for those people who don’t take care of their teeth or have some other special weakness to decay. Of course, were Rock to do something on that, he’d probably complain that fluoride causes disease instead of prevents it.
5. Ever heard of Voltaire? In the 18th century, he noted that doctors never cure anyone, but just hold the hand of the patient until the patient gets better, or dies. That changed with the advent of antibiotics. Interesting to hear Chris Rock rip off Voltaire.
I came across your website and wanted to notify you about a broken link on your page in case you weren’t aware of it. The link on https://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/chris-rock-funny-but-wrong-in-his-slam-of-medical-science which links to http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/oralhealth/ is no longer working. I’ve included a link to a useful page on the future of the dental care that you could replace the broken link with if you’re interested in updating your site. Thanks for providing a great resource!
The point is that there are NO studies which indicate that consuming water fluoridated at one part per million (or any level) is a safe and effective method of reducing tooth decay.
Your opinion is based on the belief that such a study or studies exist(s).
You need to look for the evidence that supports your position. The only study that actually measured health effects of fluoridation was the Kingston Newburgh study which began in 1945, when it was believed that fluoride ingestion strengthened teeth and then only for children.
Ten years later when most of the children were examined (counter-intuitively leaving out any children sick two weeks before official examination dates) and leaving out adults, SUNY researchers found more anemia, bone defects and early puberty in fluoridated Newburgh children than in non-fluoridated Kingston NY.
Why didn’t they tell you that? Because the trial was deemed a success five years before these findings were found and after the Kingston/Newburgh study caused the spread of fluoridation across the U.S.
This is the false foundation which fluoridation was built.
Everything you’ve cited are opinions that have no scientific references to support them. But you won’t believe me so I had hoped you would take the time to find out for yourself.
The dentists who have changed their minds about fluoridation feel like they have been duped, cheated out of a real education and shocked that what they learned in dental school is not the truth about fluoridation and about people who are opposed to fluoridation.
The problem is most people don’t take the time to look
So, I’ve cited the studies that indicate over-fluoridating is helpful to prevent tooth decay. I’ve referred to several studies that conclude fluoridation works well. I’ve pointed out that the studies you cite, in fact conclude that fluoridation works and works well.
What’s the trap you’re trying to set here?
Excuse me for being paranoid about this, but I don’t have any access to a science library at the moment, and since every study you’ve cited says the opposite of what you claimed it said, I’m really curious about what your point is? If I find a study that says it works at 2 ppm, is that a problem? What’s the problem with the studies we’ve already discussed? Why do they not meet your criteria, or criterion, if it’s that simple?
ED – Then it shouldn’t be difficult for you to cite one study published in a peer-reviewed journal proving that water fluoridation at one part per million is a safe and effective method to reduce tooth decay.
Just one, thank you.
You keep saying stuff like that. Then I go to the studies you cite, and those studies show that fluoridation of water is a big help. You pluck out a sentence here or there that, by itself, might be ambiguous — but when I get the actual study it confirms the contrary of what you say.
I worked in health policy for many years. I’ve gone through dozens, maybe hundreds of studies on fluoridation at the Library of Congress. I’ve not followed the issue closely for the past couple of decades, but there is a mountain of solid research showing that fluoridation helps prevent cavities. The only thing really new is the idea that fluoridation helps more after tooth eruption than before, which only strengthens the case for fluoridation.
Quite to the contrary of what you hope, I’ve been reading the studies you cite. They do not show what you claim, and the people doing them conclude the opposite of what you claim.
The point is that that the CDC is giving you opinions not based on science.
The only reference in that MMWR about fluoridation being effective is based on the BELIEF of dentists.
Yes fluoridation is believed to reduce tooth decay – but there’s no science to prove it.
You are clearly not actually reading any of these studies but just plucking out the parts that please you even though they are just opinions not based on science.
Two prominent dental researchers and university professors Burt and Eklund in their dental textbook about Community Dentistry clearly state that fluoridation is base on a belief and that there is no evidence that optimal doses of fluoride reduce tooth decay and that the term optimal fluoridation be dropped.
You have a lot of reading to do to catch up to those who have actually read the fluoride science.
From the very first paragraph of the report on the CDC study group:
How do people keep coming up with the silly idea that these studies don’t say what they say?
But the CDC says that benefits accrue to most Americans because they get fluoride in drinking water. CDC says a constant bath of fluoride is necessary to provide best protection against cavities, and that fluoride in drinking water helps keep that constant bath going.
Excerpts from the above link:
Which means that everybody benefits. Here’s the full quote, that entire paragraph:
In the battles with those most famous of anti-science dragoons, the creationists, we call that “quote mining.” You’ve stripped enough off of what the authors really said so that it almost starts to sound as if they’re talking against fluoridated water. Not so. Here are the full paragraphs, in context, and you can see that the CDC’s position is that water should be fluoridated if it is not naturally up to the “optimal” levels, and that good dental hygiene including brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, is necessary for best dental health — nowhere does the CDC come close to condemning fluoridated water as a public health miracle in fighting cavaties:
NYSCOF, either you’ve been had by somebody passing bad data to you, or you could use some instruction in reading science journals for comprehension. Also, plain English.
You failed to note this in the report, for example:
You need to read entire studies and not just the conclusions. J. V. Kumar is a master of manipulating the data to suit the outcome he wants. Some might call it scientific fraud.
And all those endorsements do not science make.
The CDC says that fluoride’s beneficial effects are topical and the amount of ingested fluoride that emerges from saliva is too low to have any beneficial effect.
Excerpts from the above link:
“Fluoride works primarily after teeth have erupted…”
“The concentration of fluoride in ductal saliva, as it is secreted from salivary glands, is low — approximately 0.016 parts per million (ppm) in areas where drinking water is fluoridated and 0.006 ppm in nonfluoridated areas (27). This concentration of fluoride is not likely to affect cariogenic activity”
“The prevalence of dental caries in a population is not inversely related to the concentration of fluoride in enamel (37), and a higher concentration of enamel fluoride is not necessarily more efficacious in preventing dental caries (38).”
And yet NIDR encourages fluoridation, officially.
I haven’t checked out Kumar’s study to see whether it says what you say it says, but I can weigh it against the dozens of other studies done in that year that arrived at the conclusion that fluoridation is safe, effective, and inexpensive, and conclude that weight of evidence far and away favors fluoridation — so much so that the Surgeon General recommends it, and the CDC recognizes fluoridation as one of the top ten public health achievements of the 20th century.
Every dentist I’ve ever asked about it recommends fluoridation of drinking water. Every one.
But worse for your case, when I do pull the abstract of that article by Kumar and Iida, I find that they contradict your claims about their own article. The abstract:
So, the study that you claim supports a case against fluoridation, instead specifically supports the case for fluoridation. I don’t like people who lie to me about research, and I would recommend that you take that claim back to whoever it was told you that their research supported a case against fluoridation, and tell them you will not believe anything else they ever say. Tell not to pee on your leg and claim it’s raining, because then you get embarrassed at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.
Do we need to check out your other citations? Have you?
To Ed Darrell:
Fluoridation = Money Wasted
Children’s cavity rates are similar whether
water is fluoridated or not, according to data published in the July
2009 Journal of the American Dental Association by dentist J.V. Kumar
of the NY State Health Department (1).
In 2008, New York City spent approximately $24 million on water
fluoridation ($5 million on fluoride chemicals) (1a). In 2010, NYC’s
fluoride chemicals will cost $9 million (1b).
Fluoride in water at “optimal” levels (0.7 – 1.2 mg/L) is supposed to
reduce tooth decay without creating excessive fluorosis (fluoride-
discolored and/or damaged teeth). Yet cavities are rampant in NY’s
fluoridated populations (1c).
Attempting to prove that fluorosed teeth have fewer cavities, Kumar
uses 1986-1987 National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) data
which, upon analysis, shows that 7- to 17-year-olds have similar
cavity rates in their permanent teeth whether their water supply is
fluoridated or not (Table 1).
In 1990, using the same NIDR data, Dr. John Yiamouyiannis published
equally surprising results in a peer-reviewed journal. He concluded,
“No statistically significant differences were found in the decay
rates of permanent teeth or the percentages of decay-free children in
the F [fluoridated], NF [non-fluoridated], and PF [partially
fluoridated] areas.” (2).
Kumar divided children into four groups based on their community’s
water fluoride levels:
Less than 0.3 mg/L where 55.5% had cavities
From 0.3 to 0.7 mg/L where 54.6% had cavities
Optimal 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L where 54.4% had cavities
Over 1.2 mg/L where 56.4% had cavities
Dr. Kumar’s published data exposes more evidence that fluoridation
doesn’t reduce tooth decay.
1) “The Association Between Enamel Fluorosis and Dental Caries in U.S.
Schoolchildren,” Kumar & Iida Journal of the American Dental
Association, July 2009
2) Fluoride: Journal of the International Society for Fluoride
April 1990 (Volume 23, Issue 2, Pages 55-67) “Water Fluoridation &
Tooth Decay: Results from the 1986-1987 National Survey of US
Schoolchildren,” by John A. Yiamouyiannis, Ph.D.
Links that work at http://tinyurl.com/MoneyDownTheDrain
You’re joking, of course.
Many studies confirm the value of fluoridation in the prevention of caries, and in dental health in general. Yes, it is possible to overdose on fluoride, a problem I’m quite familiar with from old air pollution studies around steel mills.
Fluoride is not, as you appear to expect, an absolute guarantee of no tooth decay. One must still brush teeth to make the program effective. Within the bounds of normal dental hygiene in modern America (with a couple of good brushings daily) and the medical care most insured Americans get, fluoride dramatically reduces tooth cavities. Absent either of those pillars of health care, fluoride is still beneficial.
I challenge you to produce a paper from a juried science journal which has gone through peer review, alleging that fluoride is NOT the boon the rest of the world sees, and/or damaging to health in normal concentrations.
You may want to see this abstract.
Modern science indicates that ingesting fluoride does not reduce tooth decay. People in the US are dying from the consequences of untreated tooth decay and our emergency rooms are inundated with pateints is sever dental pain because most dentists won’t treat Medicaid patients and 130 million Americans don’t have dental insurance.
Dentists are getting rich because organized dentistry keeps the dentist supply low and the prices high and cater only to those with deep pockets or great insurance.
Tooth decay crises in fluoridated areas
for more info
Here’s a freely available version of the article Porlock Junior references, for those without access.
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When talking about polio and how it was spread (caused? I’m not gonna actually watch that thing) in the 1930s by DDT, it just seems kinda odd for no one to know that the President in the 1930s got around in a wheelchair because he had had polio in 1921. Man, that was some early DDT! But I guess if one is crazy stupid enough, one might decide that getting the disease made FDR hate Black people enough that he wanted all of them to get it?
Omigosh, I looked around a bit, and found
stuff at Pubmed.
But heck, why not just quote the whole thing?
So, the racist position on polio back then was exactly the opposite of the bullshit Rock is apparently promoting. You couldn’t give them polio!
Oh, and it was my impression that the reason for the spread of epdemic paralytic polio in the 20th century, starting a bit before that in fact, was widely agreed on. Namely, polio was everywhere in the bad old days of no sanitation, and almost everyone caught a mild, harmless case of it at an early age and so was immunized. Public health improved, people didn’t get the early immunity, and polio became more dangerous as other diseases retreated. That’s the version I read in the 1950s, and I note that Wikipedia, for what that’s worth, has the same story.
BTW, it seems reasonable to suppose that Blacks were thought not to be susceptible to polio because at first there weren’t many cases because they were kept in poverty and lousy living conditions! That’s just my unofficial take. It would carry a moral: if you hate racism, don’t make up stuff, but find out the facts, which turn out to be awful enough.
Good luck in getting any of this out to the public.
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